In his dual identities of artist and theorist, Del Louse aims to keep the two separate so as to, in his words “keep his allegiances clear.” That’s just one example of the particular resolution of opposites that characterizes his life and work.

Having appeared in the pages of publications such as ARTFORUM, Frieze, and October, Del Louse’s work - a particular blend of the literary and political, the age-old and the cutting edge, the religious and the erotic - has a tendency to fall into the philosophical. He lives and works in New Zealand. This interview is edited from a videochat conversation from April 2015.

Patrick Geske: Architects like to talk about having projects. Like capital pee Projects. Basically this refers to a set of concerns that run throughout a person’s work that, no matter the specifics of the small pee project at hand, the bigger project will sort of manifest itself. Typically. Though not always. And any capital pee project will transcend the personal realm, to carve out its own territory within the discipline. What would you say your project would be? And where would it be located? Art? Philosophy? Theory?

Del Louse: If I wanted to actually answer that question, which I don’t - let me be clear - What you’re asking me to do is play the artist and the critic, while all I’m trying to do is put the work out there. I know a lot of people think you have to set the stage, or kind of make way for the coming of your work - prep the ground, as it were. Fuck that, is what I say. I’m just about doing the work man. Of course I realize then I have to be okay when people like totally misunderstand me. Most of the time that’s ok though! It’s actually interesting as shit. The only time it really sucks is when people use my work to stake a claim for authority. Suddenly I become like this tool of the oppressor. Which is completely not what I’m about. It’s totally lame, but I have to learn to be cool with it. Accept what you can’t change, as the dude said. It fosters a very zen mindset. Complete control is an illusion.

PG: So theory then?

DL: Yeah so to go back to your original question, if I wanted to answer that, we’d have to get into like what does it even mean to have an idea IN something. How is an idea in art different from an idea in philosophy? What does an idea in architecture look like?

PG: That’s what I’m trying to come to terms with.

DL: I see. Well, every idea refers to a problem, so you might do well to start with some problems in architecture.

PG: So, I’m curious. Let me get in your head for a second. Let’s say you feel an idea bubble up, or even before it bubbles up, it’s just the premonition of an idea. How do you know what to do with it? Do you have some kind of Willy Wonka scale that measures ideas like golden eggs? This one’s art, this one’s philosophy....

DL: It’s about necessity before all else man. You’re coming at it all wrong! Nothing’s passive here. No one’s sitting around waiting for ideas to bubble up like fucking fishing. As if I’m just out in the middle of the lake, drinking a beer, kicking back waiting for the ideas to bite. No man. Creation is about NECESSITY. And neither can you just decide - I think I’ll have an idea in philosophy today - anymore than I would say: I’ve just decided to make a film, which I’ve never done. It just wouldn’t work. There’s no necessity. Or you, for instance, just wouldn’t say: I’ve gotta remember to figure out my project next week. That’s ridiculous. It has to come about through the necessity of working on it. Of working through it man. It’s a compulsion, and you follow that compulsion. Then maybe you have an idea.

PG: Where does theory come in for you?

DL: Well that depends on what you mean by theory.

PG: However it’s most useful.

DL: Well that’s fucking personal man! You’re asking me about my working methods….which is cool. I mean I’m open. Doing philosophy, I have nothing to hide. But as an artist, sometimes I get protective of that shit, you know what I mean? So I’ll answer as a philosopher, which makes more sense. Given the question. So. What is philosophy anyway? Care to venture an answer?

PG: Um...the love of wisdom.

DL: Well, etymologically yes. But since philosophers aren’t sitting around all day jacking-off thinking about wisdom, here’s a more practical answer for you: philosophy is the creation of concepts. It’s that simple. They take something - well at that point it’s nothing - for which no mental construct exists to even conceive of it, and they turn it into a concept. It’s literally - well literally mentally turning nothing into something.

Just hang on dude, I’m getting there - this is where it gets interesting. So all concepts are inherently attached to problems. Sometimes the problems are harder to spot, and they’re not always articulated, but they’re always there. You have a problem, and you have a concept that deals with or responds to that problem. This is all philosophy I’m talking.

The thing is, it’s not that easy. I kinda glossed over the whole creation of concepts thing, but that’s some intense, kung-fu, karate kid wax-on wax-off shit right there. I mean that’s what philosophy IS. Not anyone can just DO that. You don’t just jump in and start creating concepts to keep you afloat, because you will fucking drown, OK? Game over! No restarts! You think I’m kidding? Look at Van Gogh. Look at the way he used color. You think he just happened to be dealing with some severe psychological baggage unrelated to his fucking brilliant and expressive use of color?? Well I got news for you brother! We’re all swimming in the same goddamn bathwater, so you better find some floaties.

So what am I saying? This is where theory comes in for me, and why it’s fucking personal. It has to do with all the stuff that comes between identifying what the problem is, and creating a concept that responds to that problem. There’s an enormous fucking pile of work between those poles, and theory is the way that I navigate that work for myself. If you can’t navigate that, you’re toast. Sometimes you have to work for a long time without engaging with something. Theory allows you to reach toward a thing, when that thing doesn’t even exist. Think about that. Pretty fucking powerful.

I could get into how I actually start to do that, philosophically, but to be honest, you probably wouldn’t understand it.

PG: In architectural discourse, theory has come to mean, to put it in grossly simple terms, having ideas about the design before you start to design. Or designing, and then coming up with a theory afterward, as in post-rationalization.

DL: No, no, no. That’s all wrong. I don’t know what kind of backwater, incestual defintion of theory that is, but that ain’t theory. What you’re talking about is pre-scription, meaning determining in advance, and description, meaning recording in the aftermath. Look, the easiest way is just to show you. What are you working on right now?

PG: A highrise.

DL: A highrise? Good. Ok. Let’s see. How did you decide where to put the elevators?

PG: I in-set them about 10 or so feet from the envelope of the building so that they wouldn’t interfere with the sculptural cuts I made to the exterior of the building. Also, they provide more lateral support than if they abutted the edge of the floorplates.

DL: OK, first of all. You didn’t have a theory, so it seems silly to try to make one up. I don’t really know your project, but here’s a rough go at what your theory might have been: By putting more effort into the exterior of the building, you put all your bets on achieving certain effects. You give up, of course, total control over interior spatial arrangements. At best, the subordinate relationship of the interior to the exterior may produce unintended but positive spatial qualities that can be appropriated as integral. At worst, this relationship may produce spatial idiosyncrasies that could render the entire proposal unviable.

That’s where you’d start anyway. My guess is it’s more complicated than that.

PG: Yes.

DL: Isn’t it always? But what it’s about is confronting those decisions as you work through them. Know what I’m saying?

PG: Sure. Let’s move on. Does philosophy deal with precedents?

DL: Look, it’s like I said before: problems are the more pressing matter. It’s about what’s more productive. Wrapped up in problems you have a whole history of the way other people have dealt with, or avoided, those problems, which begins to get at what I think you mean by precedents.

PG: Do you ever address architectural problems in your work?

DL: One thing I’ve said before is that philosophy is destined for non-philosophers. It needs to be understandable and understood by the People, man! And I think the same holds for architecture. That said, I’m not a generalist. Don’t get me wrong. Specialists need to be engaging in their own kinds of obscure, specialist shit. But when your average dude stumbles into a prime piece of Architecture, she needs to be able to understand what’s going on on some kind of basic, fundamental, gut level. Even if she doesn’t really understand it, like an architect would I mean.

Maybe that sounds a little mystical. But I think it has something to do with empathy.

And brace yourself because I’m about to get way more mystical with this shit. I’m sure y’all probably already know all about this, but buildings affect us, like psychically. Right? Y’all like design for that right?

Check this out: all sadness - when I experience sadness - is the effect of some power over me. It’s what happens to me when I am separated from a power of action of which I believed myself - rightly or wrongly! - to be capable. Power of action: my energy, my force - my will! my vigor! my panache! When that power disappears into a psychic void, I feel the lack of that power. Which is sadness. When other people are prevented, by someone or something, from realizing their own power of action - that’s wickedness.

Some buildings, certainly, are wicked. No question, right? What’s more, they’re designed to be so. Those buildings aren’t so interesting to me though. What’s actually interesting is the opposite. Like what if buildings could inspire power of action? What if they could make you feel compassion? What would that be like? Could you design that building?
I think it has something to do with empathy

PG: Patrick Geske
DL: Del Louse

April 2016